Nigeria as every other independent nation in the international system conducts its foreign policy and relations with other states in ways it deems appropriate as nations cannot successfully function in isolation. Every independent states foreign policy is based on considerations of its vital national interest. According to Frankel (cited in Gosh 2009:62), “National interest refers to some ideal set of goals which a state would like to realize, if possible with its relations with other states in the international system”. From the standpoint of Omede (2003), the pursuit of national’s interest over the years presupposes that a nation preoccupies itself with the provision of security-military and economic for its citizenry. Arguing similarly, Adeleke (2010) opined that as important as economy is in the relations among states, so also is culture and politics which could engender greater understanding in relations among states, thus making external relations with state one that covers multiple issues.


At independence on October 1, 1960, Nigeria attained a status of

acquired the legal right to conduct her external relations with the rest of the world.

from independence, governance in Nigeria had witnessed leading to military rule, civil war, assassinations, massacres, and election crises. Alao (2011) described the situation thus, “since independence, governance in Nigeria has oscillated betweencivilian rule and the military. Following just over five years of civilian rule, from October 1960to January 1966, the military ruled until October 1975 (and continued till 1979). A further brief spell of civilian rule punctuated governance for a further five years… when the military againresumed governance (until May 29, 1999)”. During the period of military rule, the country had

assumed a near-pariah status among democratic countries. Incidents such as the annulment of

June 12, 1993 presidential election, the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa and other Ogoni activist in

November 1995, the indiscriminate arrest and detention of members of the opposition groups

and state-sponsored assassination squads, evoked strong international reactions and

condemnation (Mbeke-Ekanem, 2000; Alao, 2011).


In particular, when the June 12, 1993 election was annulled by the military regime of

President Ibrahim Babangida, the US government reacted by suspending non-humanitarian

assistance to Nigeria, reduced the level of military personnel exchange between the two

countries, reviewed all new application for exports of defence articles and services to Nigeria,

imposed restrictions on the issuance of American diplomatic visas to Nigerian officials, and

advised prospective American visitors to avoid Nigeria. Also, the Ogoni crises changed from

internal to external dimension with the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth. The

American perception of the human rights policies of the ruling military regimes in Nigeria,

among other factors, however, led to increase in Nigeria-US strained relations (Alade, 2013). It

is important to state that despite the above stated incidents, the relations between the two

countries have been influenced significantly by economic as well as commercial interests in the

Nigerian oil wells. Thus, Nigeria-US relations appeared to be ad hoc and haphazard (Ate, 2001).

Consequently, following the enthronement of the newly democratically elected government in

May 29, 1999, Nigeria-US relations in the Fourth Republic had a dual character – acrimony and

friendship. This paper therefore, examines Nigeria-US relations in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.

The purpose is to explore the continuity and change in policy and perceptions.



Statement of problem

Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the US in the fourth republic (1999 to 2016) have been unstable and instability in relations brings about a hiatus in mutually bilateral progress, eliciting the research question;

  • Why is Nigeria-US relations unstable?
  • Why is the Nigerian foreign policy a problem?
  • What are the principal issues involved in Nigerian foreign policy?
  • What is to be done to maintain a stable and mutually beneficial Nigerian-US relations?

1.1     Background of the Study

Nigeria’s historical attainment of independence on 1st October 1960 marked the formal beginning of Nigeria’s foreign and diplomatic relations with the International community and the United States under the leadership of its first prime minister, Late Alahji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Nigeria prosecuted a constantly dynamic foreign policy towards the United states of America while sustaining a fundamental principle of constantly having Africa as the focal spot of its foreign policy Agbegunrin 2001 (12-20) Nigeria’s foreign policy is deeply rooted in Africa with highlights on political and economic cooperation, peaceful dispute resolution and global non alignment which sometimes conflicts with the United States Foreign policies and National goals. Relatively, Nigeria under Sir, Tafawa Balawa conducted a pro-western policy as it maintained a good relationship with its erstwhile colonial master Britain, His administration was short changed and toppled through a bloody military coup of January, 15, 1966 which brought about the assumption of  the Late major-General J. T. Aguiyi Ironsi. Major-Gen. J.T. Aguiyi Ironsi Lasted only six months as General Yakubu Gowon led Coup toppled Ironsis regime and assumed power. (Abegunrin, 2001; 12-20).


General Gowon adopted a similar foreign policy posture as his predecessor Alhaji Balawa by conducting  a pro western tern policy in its foreign affairs. Nigeria entered into agreement with Britain, the United States and other European countries as well as a reluctantly extracted acceptance of the establishment of a soviet-union embassy in Lagos (Ofoegbu, 1979;1350). The general Gowon led military government was sacked in a bloodless coup which led to the assumption of power by the Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed and the retired General Olusegun Obasanjo who was his second in command and chief of staff supreme  headquarters.

The assumption of power by these two strong men served as a catalyst in the history of international relation as far as Nigeria was concerned. Their government injected new innovations and dynamism into the nation’s foreign affairs. Mohammed was prepared to counter the imperial moves of the Western powers especially the USA who had engaged as a major power broker in Africa particularly in Angola (Robert, 1991;57) Britain and Portugal also became targets of the new military administration while not leaving Cuba, a surrogate of the soviet union both of whom were present in Angola challenging the United states (US) presence. These Western powers, Cuba as well as South Africa became the targets of the Mohammed/Obasanjo military regime in Africa one basic truth that must be stressed is the fact that this was the age of the cold war during which the US and the soviet union were competing for military supremacy and searching for satellite countries who would support them in their bid to permanently polarize the world into capitalist and communist blocs under the US and soviet union respectively (Robert, 1991:67).

Given, the above situations, the Mohammed/Obasanjo regime pursued confrontational diplomacy in its resolves to emancipate African countries that were still under the tyranny of colonial masters.

The government also had conflict with US in its bid to eradicate none-colonialism, racism and apartheid on colonies in southern African (Davies, 1978;15). With all these involvements in international politics, Nigeria became a regional power and centre of influence, particularly in Africa, making her to adopt confrontational foreign policy posture towards the US. This combined with a viable economy until the mid-1980s, Nigeria was a toast of many states seeking either its influence or support on global issues or financial assistance (Ate, 1987: 93).

However, after the June 12, 1993, Nigerian presidential election was annulled, and in light of human rights abuses and the failure to embark on a

meaningful democratic transition, the United States imposed numerous sanctions on Nigeria. These sanctions included the imposition of Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to refuse entry into the United States of senior government officials and others who formulated, implemented, or benefited from policies impeding Nigeria’s transition to democracy; suspension of all military assistance; and a ban on the sale and repair of military goods and refinery services to Nigeria. The U.S. Ambassador was recalled for consultations for four months after the execution of the Ogoni Nine on November 10, 1995.

After a period of increasingly strained relations, the death of General

Abacha in June 1998 and his replacement by General Abubakar opened a new phase of improved bilateral relations. As the transition to democracy progressed, the removal of visa restrictions, increased high-level visits of U.S. officials, discussions of future assistance, and the granting of a Vital National Interest Certification on counter-narcotics, effective in March 1999, paved the way for reestablishment of closer ties between the United States and Nigeria, as a key partner in the region and the continent (Adebajo and Mustapha, 2008: 80-120).

When the new democratically elected government in Nigeria took power in 1999, the United States (US) pictured a bright future with a strategic country in the African sub-region. They envisioned a strong partnership in political, economic and security realms. Although, the US has consistently labeled their bilateral relationship with Nigeria as ‘excellent’, however, a number of recent events have meant that Washington has been challenged to take a fresh look at its relations with Abuja. Nigeria was in the forefront of African countries that publicly opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 (ThisDay Newspaper, 2003).

The growing influence of Islam in northern Nigeria has also been a cause

of concern to some policymakers in Washington, particularly in light of

America’s war on terrorism. Diplomatic relations between the two appear

threatened over the foiled attempt by a Nigerian, Umar Farouk  Abdulmutallab

to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day (December 25, 2009) which led to the inclusion of Nigeria on US terrorism watch list and subsequently, making the Nigerian Senate to give the United States authorities a seven-day ultimatum to remove Nigeria from their watch list (Tell Magazine, 2012). Despite challenges that marred Nigeria-US relationship in 2010, the bilateral relationship continued to improve, and cooperation on many important foreign policy goals, such as economic collaborations and regional peacekeeping has been good.

The Nigerian government has lent strong diplomatic support to the U.S. Government counter-terrorism efforts in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Government of Nigeria, in its official statements, has both condemned the terrorist attacks as well as supported military action against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Between 2007 and 2012, Nigeria has played a leading role in forging an anti-terrorism consensus among states in Sub-Saharan Africa (TellMagazine, 2012). It is the general aim of this thesis to explore the strategic importance of Nigeria as a crucial ally of the US and the needed synergies between the two nations to ensure regional and international stability.

Nigeria, continuously exerts more as it often times go great length to sustain diplomacy. Inspite this, relations sometimes plunges as witnessed in the event of an apparent animosity between the two. 1st December 2014, the Nigerian government under President Goodluck Jonathan cancelled a plan to have the US military train a battalion of the Nigerian army which was to primarily shore up Nigeria’s ability to confront the extremist group Boko Haram. This was almost regrettable as the Nigerian government through his ambassador to the USA Ade Adefuye accused the United State of refusing to sell arms and equipment to Nigeria in the ongoing fight against book Haram. The USA responded by absolving itself on grounds they cannot exceed the liberty the USA laws provides which borders on widespread allegation of the Nigerian military violating human rights. The strain also had an economic dimension as the USA fully suspended the purchase of Nigerians crude oil in July which subjected the country as severe economic and financial crisis.

July 20th , 2015, US President Barack Obama met with Nigerian newly elected President Buhari in the oval office of the white house which was  a rare invitation from the USA  government in an attempt to reset and improve bilateral diplomatic relations with Nigeria

The overtures and rapprochement from the US and the economic and security enticement from the US to Buhari offer an auspicious glimpse in the possibilities of improvement of bilateral diplomatic relations as seen in the extraordinary support and cooperation in retrieving stolen funds and fighting corruption. To the USA, Nigeria is a key country in the future of Africa and is held as a crucial ally in their global quest to sustain their global dominance, superiority and stability.


Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the US in the Fourth Republic (1999 to 2016) have been marred by ups and down, progressive and regressive character. Between 1999 and 2003 Nigeria US relationship was improved and cordial while between 2003 and 2004 it plunged into a full scale diplomatic tussle where Nigeria opined the action of the USA led invasion in Iraq as inappropriate. Between 2005 and 2009,  diplomatic relations improved and was cordial and translated into robust and increased economic activities in Nigeria; between 2009 and 2010 their relations was sour as a result of Nigeria’s inclusion on the terror list by  the US government; and between 2011 and 2013 their relations became stable and entered a new phase of strategic partnership in the fight against terrorism, between 2013 and 2015 relations plunged so low as US felt constrained by their laws in their continued support for Nigeria In the fight against Boko Haram extremis as they alleged widespread violations of human rights,  systemic corruption and lack of political will to advance the living conditions of ordinary Nigerians.

Nigeria experienced severe economic and financial crisis due to suspension of purchase of Nigeria crude oil by USA between 2015 and 2016 but diplomatic relations with US improved significantly due to a commendable election that brought an opposition the (APC) into power and the strong resolute will of Nigerian government to tackle corruption. The steps taken by these two countries to stabilize their relations during this period call for careful study.

In the context of this research, Perhaps US- Nigeria diplomatic relations is primarily driven by (National Interest) economic motives which in turn shape other areas of the relationship between the two countries not only for West African countries, but also foreign powers such as the US who believes that Nigeria’s leading role in Africa growth and African Command (African) would provide the motivation for other African Countries.


  1. What predicates Nigeria-US relations?.
  2. How does bilateral relations influence Nigeria – US economic relations in the fourth republic?
  • How does democracy and good governance affect Nigeria’s US relations?
  1. How does internal and global terrorism affects Nigeria-US relation?



The primary objective of this research is to critically asses the diplomatic relationship between Nigeria and the USA in the fourth republic.


Other subsidiary objectives are:

  1. Empirically evaluate whether the Nigeria-US relations has impacts on Nigeria’s national Interest
  2. Examine how democracy and good governance affects Nigeria-US relations
  • Analyze how internal and global terrorism affects Nigeria- US relations in the fourth republic.




The research work historizes Nigeria- US relations during military regime and democratic civilian administration of Nigeria, enhancing the insight into the dynamic nature of their relations and Nigeria’s National interests.

Secondly, the research made conscious effort to  address the endogenity issue, and provide justification for the unrelenting efforts of the government to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) through its economic diplomacy with the US

Thirdly, its usefulness to scholars, especially diplomatic historians, political scientist, economist and International relations experts in their research.

Diplomats like Ambassadors, high commissioners and staffers of foreign ministries will benefit from the work.

Finally the policy makers and political class will learn through this study, the need for them to create enabling climate and make functional policies that would

  1. Integrate Nigerian consistently into the International community as a reckoning nation through diplomacy
  2. The benefits of democracy in actualizing its national interest.
  • The need for multilateral relations
  1. How to enhance National Security through foreign policy.


The study covers Nigeria’s foreign relations with the United States of America from 1999 to 2016. The study examines the bilateral relations between the two countries particularly, the economic, cultural, political and military relations from 1999 to 2016. Other areas which this study covers include how the interplay of domestic factors shaped the relationship between Nigeria and the United States of America.




In social sciences, there are many theories through which studies are carried out in other to give it a focus. One or more theory may be applied in a given study. Theories are meant to guide the researcher to stay focus on his or her attempt to find solutions to the problems being tackled (Obasis 1999).

This research will use the concept of the national interest by James Rosnau to analyze the bilateral relations between Nigeria and the USA in the fourth republic.

It has become a common practice for the state officials to explain their decision and actions towards the external environment of state n terms of national interest. The main objective of any nation’s foreign policy however, is the promotion and furtherance of its national interest James Rosnau (1980) explained national interest from two perspectives. Firstly, he viewed national interest as an analytic concept used in explaining, describing or evaluating the sources of adequacy of a nation’s foreign policy.

Secondly, he views it as an instrument of political actions which politicians use to justify and legitimize their policies. The National interest is a country’s goals and ambitions whether in politics, economic, military or cultural spheres. The National interest of a state is multifaceted. Primarily it is about the states survival and security. Other important concerns are the pursuit of wealth, economic growth and power. Many states, especially in modern times, regard the presentation of the nation’s culture as of great importance. In early human history the national interest was usually viewed as secondary to that of religion or morality. To engage in a war, rulers needed to justify the actions in these contexts.

Today, the concept of the national interest is often associated with political realist who wishes to differentiate their politics from idealistic policies that seek either to inject morality into foreign policy or promote solutions that rely on multilateral institutions which might weaken the independence of the state. As considerable agreement exist in every country over what is or is not in the national interest the term is often invoked to justify isolationist and pacifistic policies as to justify interventionist or warlike policies (Wikipedia) otherwise the national interest is invoked by realist and states leaders to signify that which is most important to the state, survival being at the top of the list (Dune and Schmidt 2001) James N Rosnau propose a distinction between the use of the concept for the purpose of political analysis and that of political action (Joseph Frankel 1970).

An additional model employed in this study is  “economic diplomacy”. Economic diplomacy  is concerned with International economic issues. It is what government do regarding economic issues that provide its content of policies relating to production, movement or exchange of goods, services or investment, official development assistance, money, information and their regulations (Odel 2000:11).

Nigeria’s greatest trading partner is the United state of America. Nigeria enjoys robust economic bilateral relations with USA as the export crude oil which is its most valued commodity that accounts for Nigeria’s biggest source of revenue generation. Crude oil provide 95% of forex and 80% budgetary revenue Nigeria lends strong diplomatic support to USA government as part of their foreign policy tool which is also reciprocated more by the USA government in form of availing itself as a viable market for Nigerian government.

The USA on May 2000 under the administration of bill Clinton signed the African growth and opportunity act, a USA trade act that significantly provide substantial avenues for growth and prosperity. The legislation enhanced market access to the US for qualifying sub-Saharan African countries who continuously met the stipulated conditionalities such as upholding the rule of law, human rights and respect for core labor standards.

Nigeria also benefits from its robust economic diplomatic relations with the USA which is a major financier of IMF, and following a signing of a standby agreement in August 2000, Nigeria received a debt restructuring deal from the Paris Club and a $1 billion credit from the IMF.

At a point in bilateral relations, the USA exhibited an ambivalent diplomatic attitude as they refused to sell arms to Nigeria as well as provide technical support in form of intelligence sharing and military corporation in the fight against Islamic extremist group Boko Haram citing gross and widespread human rights abuses by the Nigerian military which is inconsistent with USA laws. The prevalence of regular impasse in the Nigeria-USA bilateral relations and consequent economic changes compels the researcher to employ the National Interest theory in explaining and assessing Nigeria- US diplomatic relations in the four republics.


This study will be informed by 2 hypotheses:

  1. National interest fosters Nigeria- US diplomatic relations
  2. National Interest undermines Nigeria-US diplomatic relations.


In this work, historical/descriptive method shall be used.  The reason for the choice of this method is based on the fact that historical/descriptive method enhances clearer perspective of Nigeria’s foreign policy:  Nigeria United States bi-lateral relation.  Materials shall be sourced from both secondary and primary sources.  Secondary sources are materials form books, journals, magazines, internet, communiqués and official documents.  Materials from primary sources shall come from oral interviews, international relations experts, postgraduate students of international relations, lecturers of international relations and diplomats.




Abegunrin. O. (2003) Nigerian Foreign Policy under Military Rule 1966-1999, West Port CT. Praege.

Bach. DC. (1983) Nigeria-American Relations: Converging interest and power relations, in TM Shaw and O, Aluko (Eds) Nigerian foreign policy; Alternative perceptions and projections London Macmillan.

Akindele RA. And Ate B. E. (1986) Nigeria’s Foreign policy, 1986-2000 AD: Background to and reflections on the views from Kuru. Africa Spectrum.

Gambaro. I. A. (1975) Nigeria and the World: A growing internal stability. Wealth and External Influence Journal of International Affairs 29 (2).155-169.

Ogunbadejo. O. (1979180) Nigeria’s foreign policy under military rule, 1966-79. International Journal 35,748.

Eminue. O. (2006) Military in politics. Uyo: Soul mate Press and Publishers.

Isaac Obasi (1999) Research methodology in political science, Academic publishing Company Enugu, Nigeria.







Encyclopaedia Britannica define foreign policy as general objectives that guide the activities and relationship of one state in its interactions with the other states. The development of foreign policy is influenced by domestic considerations, the policies or behaviour of other states, or plans to advance specific geopolitical designs. Leopold Von Ranke emphasized the primary of geography and external threats in shaping foreign policy, but later writers emphasized domestic factors.

Holsti (1983) presents foreign policy as “actions of a state towards external environment and the conditions under which their actions are formulated”.

According to Akinyemi, foreign policy consists of three elements. Firstly, it is one of the overall orientation and policy interactions of a particular country towards another. The second element is the objective that a country seeks to achieve in her relations or dealing with other countries. The third element of foreign policy is the means for achieving that particular goal or objectives (Akinyemi, 2006). Kissinger often submits that in foreign policy analysis, “the domestic structure is taken as given; foreign policy begins where domestic policy ends” (Kissinger, 1970). This emphasizes the linkage between the domestic environment and foreign policy pursuit. Hence, Kissinger asserts that “the domestic structure is decisive finally in the elaboration of positive goals”.

Adeniran (1983) advanced that foreign policy should be perceived from the connection of the motives and benefits that underpin states relations. He further opines that goals and means are basic ingredients of foreign policy. Morgenthau ties the goals of a nation’s foreign policy to what he calls national interest.

According to encyclopaedia, a country’s foreign policy also called the foreign relations policy consist of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries.

In recent times, due to the deepening level of globalisation and transnational activities, the state will also have to interact with non-state actors. Since the national interests are paramount, foreign policies are designed by the government through high level decision making processes. National interest’s accomplishment can occur as a result of peaceful cooperation with other nations, or through exploitation.

American heritage dictionary define foreign policy in the context of U.S. military history “the goals the nation officials seek to attain abroad, the values that give instruments used to pursue them”. Khan et al. (1977) argue that “foreign policy consists of a set of ranked objective which a government seeks to achieve in its relation with others”.

Northedge conceptualises foreign policy simply as interplay between the outside and the inside (Northedge, 1968). In the research of T. B. Miller, foreign policy is presumably something less than the sum of all policies which have an attempt upon national governments (Miller, 1969).

Akinboye defines foreign policy as a dynamic process involving interaction between the domestic and the external environment (Solomon, 1999). Foreign policy is therefore the general objective that guides the activities and relationship of one state in its interactions with other states. Morgenthau ties the goals of a nation’s foreign policy to what he calls national interest. He believes that the objectives of a foreign policy must be interpreted in terms of the national interest (Morgenthau, 1978). He therefore, submit that no nation can have a true guide as to what it must do and what it needs to do in foreign policy without accepting national interest as a guide.



One of the hallmarks of independent and sovereign statehood is the determinations and conduct of a nation’s foreign policy. Nigeria assumed sovereign independent status in October 1, 1960 and the mantle of leadership fell on Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first and the last prime minister of Nigeria. The task of taking and pursuing Nigeria’s national interest became a task for the   pioneering indigenous administration whose ability and capability in performing the roles were limited by experience, lack of precedence, institutional deficiencies, poor operational environment and shortage of foreign policy experts.

Nigeria from January 1, 1814 when the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates was formally effected to October 1, 1960 when she attained independence could not pursue an independent foreign policy which could be said to be separate and distinct from that of Britain.



There is a consensus among scholars and policy makers in Nigeria that the core national interests upon which country’s foreign policy decisions had been directed since independence were:

(a) The defence of the country’s sovereignty independence and territorial integrity.

(b) The restoration of human dignity to black men and women all over the world, particularly the eradication of colonialism and white minority race from the face of Africa.

(c) The creation of the relevant political and economic conditions in Africa and the rest of the world which will not only facilitate the preservation of the territorial integrity and security of all African countries but also foster national self-reliance in Africa countries.

(d) The promotion and improvement of the economic well-being of the Nigerian citizens.

(e) The promotion of world peace with justice.

The principal guiding principles of the regime’s foreign policy include the following:

(a)     Legal equality of states: Nigeria believes that all nations of the globe are equal no matter their classification as to whether they are powerful or weak, developed or underdeveloped, big or small, industrialised or non-industrialised, rich or poor. This position implies that Nigeria will not discriminate on the basis of these distinctions in her international relations.

(b)     Non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states: Nigeria has respect for the sovereign independence of other states. Therefore, Nigeria does not want to be seen as flaunting a seemingly colonial policy.

(c)      Multilateralism: The principle of multilateralism explains not only Nigeria’s enthusiastic and instinctive search for membership in key international organisations at both regional and global levels but also her support for and leadership in the establishment of some regional organisation (Olusanya and Akindele, 1984).

(d)     Africa as nerve-centre of Nigeria’s foreign policy: This implies that in the nation’s external relations, Africa will receive priority attention. Nigeria’s declaration of making Africa her preoccupation was informed by certain factors. One, Nigeria is geo-politically located in the African region. Two, it is the most populous African, and black nation on the globe. It is therefore natural for the country to express afro-centric concerns.

(e)      Non-alignment: The nation evolves a strategy on dealing with the prevailing cold war between erstwhile western and eastern blocks. The nation resolved to be neutral and not take sides with any of the blocks. This posture is meant to enable Nigeria have ample opportunities to freely manoeuvre in the world politics.



Adeniran T.  (1983) Introduction to International relations, Ibadan, Macmillan.

Ajayi K. (2006) Nigerian foreign policy and image crisis. Soc. Sci. 1:110-117.

Akinyemi B. (2006), Foreign policy of the powers Nigeria institute of International affairs, Nigeria.

Miller TB. (1969) on writing about foreign policy in James Rosnau International Politics and foreign Policy. The free press, New York.

Morgenthau H. (1978). Politics among National, New York.

Olusangya, Akindele (1984) fifty years of Nigeria’s Foreign policy: A critical review.

Olasupo Olusola (2015) peak journal of social Sciences and Humanities Vol. 3 (5) pp 58-63.

Adeyemo. F. O. (2002), Dynamics of Nigeria’s foreign policy 1993-1998. Lagos. France soba- Nigeria limited.






On attainment of independence in 1960, Nigeria began to conduct its external relations with the rest of the world under the leadership of its Prime Minister, the Late Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The objectives and guiding principles of Nigeria’s foreign policy emphasise Africa as the centre-piece of the nation’s overall foreign relations (i.e. pre-occupation with Africa issues). It could be recalled that Nigeria had been previously under British sovereignty before independent. Saliu and Aremu (2006) observed that “at independence, the British influence and interest in Nigeria was overwhelmingly active as to allow for any clear role for the Americans. Since both US and Britain were (still are) close allies, there was no strong desire to change the status quo. Hence, in the immediate post-independence Nigeria, United States came third after Britain and Germany in the areas of trade, aid and technical assistance”.

However, a number of events occurred in 1960 and 1961 respectively and late in 1970s which, altogether, fore-ordained the ineluctable pattern of Nigeria-United States relationship in the subsequent years. First, the United States recognized the Federation of Nigeria on October 1, 1960, in a congratulatory message from the Secretary of State, Christian Herter to the Nigerian people, broadcast on Voice of America radio. This message was followed by a congratulatory letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on October 2, 1960. By implication, this was an implied recognition of a new State. The facility of an implied or indirect recognition may be resorted by way of sending a message of congratulations to a new State (Dickson (2013). The United States also established diplomatic relations with Nigeria in 1960. American Embassy was established in Lagos on October 1, 1960, with Joseph Palmer II in-charge pending presentation of his letter of credence on October 4, 1960. As Ate (1986) clearly pointed out, the pattern of Nigeria’s diplomatic ties with the US closely corresponded to, and actually reinforced, the external economic pattern.

Nigeria concentrated its fullest diplomatic attention on the US and Britain, and cooperated rather intimately with the US on major contemporary Africa issues.

Second, on November 17, 1960 a Nigerian, Dr. Jaja Wachukwu – Acting Permanent Representative for Nigeria at the United Nations was elected Chairman, UN Conciliation Commission on the Congo through the instrumentality of the US. Third, on December 12, 1961 President John F. Kennedy of the United States announced an offer of $225 million as a longterm development aid for Nigeria. Ate (1986) observed that the last two events had a dual significance – one substantive, the other theoretical. From a substantive point of view, Nigeria’s role in the Congo was significant for a number of reasons. But more importantly, it provided the first opportunity for direct policy interaction between a sovereign Nigeria and the United States on crucial African problems, thus setting a pattern for the future Nigeria – US relations. Second, and as Ate further stressed, the Kennedy aid offer underlined the political importance which the United States attached in its evolving African diplomacy and in the security of Western position in the continent. Furthermore, the implementation of the American aid, within the framework of the First National Development Plan, marked the start of Nigeria’s strategy to multilaterize its external economic and political dependency in contrast with the traditional exclusive bilateral focus on the United Kingdom. As a result of this development, the United States emerged as the second most important metropolitan centre in Nigeria’s external economic relations.

During the first six years of independence that is between 1960 and 1966 Nigeria had bilateral ties with the United States and this had serious political consequences for its foreign policy. The US, in particular provided more than 50 percent of $949.2 million for the 1962 – 1968 National Development Plan.

Fourth, the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war in 1967 marked a decisive and critical turning point in the evolution of Nigeria-US relations. Onyema (2013) observed that “America’s support for Nigeria was delicate and complicated. American developed pro-Biafran sympathies and rallies with the secessionist movement”. Put differently, there was benign sympathy for the Biafran cause in the United States contrary to the thinking that the US supported the Nigerian government (Lyman, 1988). Thus, the American indifference and perceived reluctance to support the Nigerian government during the war led to Nigeria’s strange romance with the former Soviet Union. Consequently, the Soviet became major arms suppliers to the Federal Military Government of Nigeria at the outset of the war when the US embargoed arms of both sides (Elombah, 2012). Hence, immediately after the war, Nigeria normalized and strengthened its relations with the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. It also led to a re-affirmation of and stronger attachment to the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of states as well as non-alignment in Nigeria’s external affairs (Saliu and Aremu, 2006).

In the post-Nigeria civil war period, a number of events took place which, further led to strained Nigeria-US bilateral relations. In 1975, the Nigerian military invaded and occupied the US Information Service headquarters. This was followed by Nigerian government refusal to receive the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger on three occasions. The US Embassy was also attacked by demonstrators for alleged American complicity in the Angolan civil war and alleged American involvement in the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed (Lyman, 1988). American interest in Nigeria was, however, revived following Nigeria’s transition to civil rule and the adoption of the American style of presidential and federal systems in 1979. In 1983, the military took over power from the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. During the long period of military rule, which lasted between 1983 and 1999, Nigeria experienced generally, difficult relations with the United States. Several actions of the military juntas brought the nation in clear opposition to the US for the purpose of:

defending Nigeria from external aggression;



Economic Diplomacy: – According to the World Wide Web, this is a form of diplomacy; it is the use of the full spectrum economic tools of the state to achieve its national interest. It includes all the economic activities, including but not limited to export, import, investment, lending and free trade agreements.

In the traditional sense, diplomacy is political diplomacy which implies diplomats primarily engage in political relations which leads to other form of relations as economic, cultural etc. Vol.5. No2.

The goal of traditional diplomacy is peace while the goal of diplomatic diplomacy is prosperity (Julies Bishop, Sydney 2014 institute Sydney) economic diplomacy is concerned with International economic issue. It is what government do regarding economic issues that provide its content of policies relating to production, movement or exchange of goods, services or investment, official development assistance, money, information and their regulations (Odel 2000:11).


Nigeria, since Independence has played a constructive role in the international stage befitting her states as the largest black nation in the world and maintaining its prominent membership in the Int’l community it has played an active role in global governance  in different int’l organizations and bodies, remaining a major military and economic force in the west Africa sub region.

The concept of economic diplomacy was first introduced into the Nigeria’s foreign policy by General Ibrahim Babangida.

Nigeria’s Economic diplomacy in the 1990 under Ibrahim Babangida involved negotiating trade concessions, attracting foreign investors, and rescheduling debt repayment to western creditors. The aim was to make foreign policy serve the country’s goal of economic development.

In 2011under president Jonathan, things Seem to assume an improved level with the president through the foreign affairs minister, Ambassador Olubenga Ashiru, outline his emphasis on economic diplomacy.

In other to sustained growth and economic foreign relations instrument to propel economic and industrial programme (Vanguard Ngicon Economic Diplomacy: A paradigms shift in Nigeria foreign policy 21 August 2011)

The emergence of President Muhamadu Buhari also ushers Nigeria into another round of economic diplomacy through his diplomatic foreign trips, fostering confidence in estranged, potential and presently active investors.


Nigeria’s Fourth Republic came into being on May 29, 1999 following successful elections and subsequent swearing-in of a new civilian government headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) and later Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua/Goodluck Johnathan’s administration, and President Mohammadu Buhari (2007-2015).

The relation has been marred by regular swings of ups and down but with significant records of:

(i)      Assistance in military professionalism and security sector reform;

(ii)     The global war on terror;

(iii)    Boosting trade and investment; and

(iv)    Efforts to ensure debt relief and financial assistance.



Admittedly, the establishment of an armed forces (hereinafter “the military”) is covered by Section 217(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

Section 217(2)(a-b) stated that the Federation shall…equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of:

  • defending Nigeria from external aggression;
  • maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violations on land, sea or air.
  • suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so …. and
  • performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

From the above stated provisions, and as Gilmore (cited in Eminue, 2006:45) has perceptively pointed out, “the military institution is concerned with the management and use of controlled violence in the service of the State. When the military institution veers from this role to participate in or to influence other, non-military agencies and functions of the State, including it leadership, then militarism exists in greater or lesser degree”. Thus, militarism, the exact opposite of democracy or democratization, is the preponderance of military values over those of the civil society (Eminue, 2006). During the protracted period of military rule in Nigeria, the military abandoned their traditional functions and as Klare (1980:37) put, “to assume ever increasing control over the lives and behaviour of its citizens, …increasingly to dominate national culture, education, the media, religion, politics and the economy at the expense of civilian institutions”.

The nature and impact of military rule on the Nigerian state overtime generated serious concern as to the justification of the involvement of the military in Nigerian governance. Military leaders engaged in unprofessional conduct such as direct stealing from the treasury, reckless public expenditure, killing and violation of fundamental human right, indiscipline and corrupt practices became prevalent. As a result, the revered image of the military came to a full circle, dragged through the mud, despised and distrusted. The international community was not left out of this deserved military bashing, vilification and condemnation. Thus, the military became antithetical to Nigeria’s federalism and democracy. Because of the history of the armed

forces involvement in Nigerian politics, or as Alao (2011) put it, “in the light of its past involvement in politics, the Nigerian army (armed forces) needed to be “professionalized” in order to institutionalized respect for civilian control in the new democracy”. This became a key preoccupation of President Obasanjo’s administration and US assistance was sought in this

venture. Subsequently, this led to a military pact called “The Nigeria and US Military Pact” or “The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)”, between President Obasanjo and the US President, Bill Clinton. As Omoruyi (2001) has pointed out, under the pact, officially called Millennium Action Plan, a private US company, Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) was invited to train members of the Nigerian Army, and was assigned specifically, the following functions:

  • To implement a plan to install civilian control over military;
  • To redesign the military three branches;
  • To trim the bloated forces; and
  • To devise a strategy for dealing with the officers who lost their jobs.

According to Aja (2003), the military cooperation agreement as distinct from a pact has the following declared objectives:

  • To train and re-train the Nigerian military for peace-keeping operations;
  • To professionalize the Nigerian military; and
  • To provide patrol vessels for the Nigerian military to effectively police oil installations.

For the implementation of the pact, the US provided a sum of 3.5million dollars and the Nigerian government was to provide a matching sum of 3.5million dollars to be paid to MPRI.

This implies that the implementation of the pact was a joint business between the two countries.

It could be recalled that in 1959, on the eve of Nigeria’s independence, the Anglo-Nigerian Defense Pact was rejected for two reasons. First, that it would unduly deny Nigeria independence that was in the offing. Second, and more importantly, it was feared that the Defence Pact would unduly drag Nigeria into a military involvement contrary to the Nigeria interest.

The implementation of the pact started with the establishment of Operation Focus Relief

(OFR) with the training camp in Serti, Nigeria, and with various components, basically tailored to sustained civilian control of the military as part of the mechanisms to guarantee democratic consolidation in Nigeria. However, its implementation attracted diverse reactions. As the then US Ambassador in Nigeria, Howard Jeter clearly observed, “Operation Focus Relief was unprecedented in Africa. And it really speaks to the importance of the United States places on its relationship with Nigeria both as a partner for peace, and force for stability in Africa”. The then Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Victor Malu (cited in Saliu and Aremu, 2006) argued that, “MPRI came into the country to help re-professionalize the nation’s Armed forces. When they

drew their programmes, we objected to some because they border on the security of the country.

We are a sovereign nation, so, we owe it a duty to defend our nation. We don’t need them to teach us the strategy”. Malu saw the pact as American Military adventurism in Nigeria and overbearing, protesting that “your best friend today can be your worst enemy tomorrow”.  It is important to state that following the objection raised above, Gen. Victor Malu was forcefully

and prematurely retired from the Army by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

According to Alao (2011), there were, however, serious objections from Nigerians, including the military for three reasons. First, many saw it as a form of foreign domination.

Second, the huge amount involved, particularly when many Nigerians were living below the poverty line, and where basic infrastructures, such as water, electricity, were collapsing. Third, that the implementation of such an agreement would mean a switched to US weapons systems at the expense of Nigeria’s reliance on North Korea and former Soviet Union (now Russia) for its arsenal. The decision to enter the pact was also seen by Nigerians as one of the unilateral decisions of the President, which was without consulting the National Assembly that has a role to play in matters that have to do with the deployment and the use of armed forces home and abroad. The pact eventually collapsed in 2003. Clearly then, the US intervention in Nigeria’s military and security sector reform cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of sovereignty, which asserts that every country, regardless of its size, is the unquestioned master of its internal affairs and forbids other countries from

interfering with those affairs. The US may have been engaging in its usual cynical calculations advancing its interest under the guise of assisting in security sector reform.


This is the second but very crucial aspect in Nigeria-US relations in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. Like any other concept in political science, definitions of terrorism are complex and controversial, and, because of the inherent danger and adverse effect of terrorism, the term in its

popular usage has developed an intense stigma. According to Opukri and Ebienfa (2013), the difficulty in constructing a universally accepted definition of terrorism is a consequence of the existence of organizations and leaders that were formally branded as terrorist but eventually evolved into acceptable leaders and governments. This could be cleaned from the US terror watch list of suspects discovered in 2008 from FBI compilation which included Nelson

Mandela’s African National Congress as a terrorist suspect.

Although there is no agreement among scholars as to what constitutes terrorism, the United States’ Law 1987 (cited in Dupuy, 2004) defined ‘terrorist activity’ as “the organizing, abetting or participating in a wanton or indiscriminate act of violence with extreme indifference to the risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to individuals not taking part in the harm hostilities”. This definition would have been all-encompassing if the precision that the civilian population is the primary target of such acts is added. Thus, attacks on civilian populations, such as, the bombing of civilian populations, in such cases as, the bombing of civilian populations in cities by both sides in the Second World War, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc would all be qualified as terrorism. Thus, terrorism refers to the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective (Jenkins, 2013).

The global war on terror began immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. in which about 2,600 were killed and over 4,000 sustained injuries (The Guardian, September 17, 2001). Thus, the major proponent of the war on terror is the United State and her allies. In response to the

attacks, the US stated that it was ready to defend itself and to bring the terrorists to justice. On October 7, 2001, the United States kick-started her anti-terrorism war and launched its military operation codenamed Operation Enduring Freedom against the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan as well as the Taliban, the ruling faction in Afghanistan which it accused of harbouring and supporting the terrorist network. On March 20, 2003, the United States and a “Coalition of the Willing”, a de facto force invaded Iraq, took over Iraqi territory and overthrown the government of Saddam Hussein. This was because of its alleged weapons of mass destruction programmes and alleged ties with Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist group which master-minded the September 11, 2001 attacks. Thus, the justifications offered for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq respectively was to prevent terrorism or future attack by government sponsored terrorists against the US, her allies and other nations of the world.

However, as Alao (2011) has pointed out, a major hiccup in the relations between the US and Nigeria came in December 2009 when a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was arrested during a failed attempt to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253, flying into Detroit from Amsterdam. Following the arrest, international community became the focus of international reactions and the immediate reaction of US was to place Nigeria on its “Terror Watch List”. As a result, removal from the watch list became a source of concern and foreign policy priority for African Journal of Social Sciences, Volume 3 Number 4 (2013), pp. 200-213 208

Yar’Adua/Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. As Ameh and Ibrahim (2010) have pointed out, for dropping Nigeria from terror list, the US gave the following conditions:

_ Nigeria must join in a public condemnation of acts of terrorism wherever they occur in the world.

_ Nigeria should take urgent steps to address security lapses at its airports.

_ Nigeria must be party to an agreement to deploy air marshals on all US-bound flights originating from Nigeria.

_ Nigeria’s anti-terrorism bill, pending before the nation’s National Assembly should be passed into law.

It is pertinent to state that these conditions were reached after several diplomatic entreaties between the US and the Nigerian government.

It is equally important to point out that, “Terror Watch List” is a list of countries that the US sees as supporting terrorism or terrorists. At that material time of Nigeria’s inclusion, other countries on the list were Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Algeria, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Kaarbo and Ray (2011:238) has, however, argued that

“because of the moral judgment connected to the label terrorism, defining groups as terrorists (or states as supporting or sponsoring terrorism) has become a tool that political actors use to determine the legitimacy of their perceived enemies”. Thus, the US State Department…has no objective criteria for deciding when countries should be placed on or removed from list of states supporting terrorism, inclusion is a purely political decision (Long, 2000). This study observes that with the terms of the conditions, particularly urging Nigeria to urgently pass anti-terrorism  bill, the United States was not only dictating for or imposing its decisions on a sovereign state,

but interfering in the internal affairs – law making process of Nigeria.



This is one of the major aspects of Nigeria’s relations with the US since the return of democracy in 1999. According to Alao (2011), Nigeria had prioritized trade in its relations with the US. There have been increased trade links between the two countries. Optimizing the relationship to improve Nigeria’s economy was central to Nigeria’s policy. There have also been persistent calls for US investments in Nigeria. Presently, key US investors in the Nigerian oil sector included Exxon/Mobil, Chevron and Western Geo-physical. Other US multinationals in Nigeria include the British American Tobacco Company, in the tobacco enterprise, the CitiBank, in the banking sector. As expected, oil is at the centre of most of the country’s trade with the US, and Nigeria continues to be one of its major crude oil exporters.

In the year 2000, the US and Nigeria signed a Trade & Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Data from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (Accessed September 2, 2013) reveals the following US-Nigeria trade facts: Nigeria is currently the US 23rd largest goods trading partner with $38.6 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2011. Goods exports totaled $4.8 billion; Goods imports totaled $33.7 billion. The US goods trade deficit with Nigeria was $28.9 billion in 2011. In exports, Nigeria was the United States’ 44th largest goods export market in 2011. US goods exports to Nigeria in 2011 were $4.8 billion, up 18.4% ($747 million) from 2010. The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2011 were: Cereals (wheat) ($1.2 billion), Vehicles ($1.1 billion), Machinery ($720 million), Mineral Fuel (oil) ($597 million), and Plastic ($187 million). US exports of agricultural products to Nigeria totaled $ 1.3 billion in 2011. Leading category is: wheat ($1.2 billion). In imports, Nigeria was the United States’ 16th largest supplier of goods imports in 2011. US goods imports from Nigeria totaled $33.7 billion in 2011, a 10.6% increase ($3.2 billion) from 2010. Nearly all of US imports from Nigeria were oil. US imports from Nigeria accounted for 1.5% of total U.S. imports for 2011. The five largest import categories in 2011 were: Mineral Fuel (oil) ($33.6 African Journal of Social Sciences, Volume 3 Number 4 (2013), pp. 200-213 billion), Cocoa ($61 million), Rubber ($28 million), Special Other (returns) ($26 million), Food Waste ($6 million). US imports of agricultural products from Nigeria totaled $107 million in 2011. Leading categories include: cocoa beans ($56 million), and rubber ($28 million).

Nigeria has also been involved in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Act was established by the US in May 2000 to provide duty-free and quota-free market preferences for approximately 6,400 products from Sub-Saharan African countries to US markets until 2015. Nigeria’s leading AGOA non-oil products to the US include cashew nuts,

shea butter, shrimps, ginger, gum Arabic, cocoa products and local foods. However, it seems that Nigeria has not benefited as much as it should from AGOA. This is because the country’s products are not economically competitive in the US. The difficulties involved in registering a company in Nigeria also appear to have affected its chances of benefiting from this initiative.

The World Bank (2010) report stated that it costs 80% of an average Nigerian’s annual salary to register a company, compared with approximately 4% of an average Mauritian’s annual salary (Williams, 2010). Also, infrastructural challenges such as power, transport and delay in ports increases production cost, which makes the goods less competitive in US markets.

Nigeria ranks eighth out of the 40 AGOA beneficiary countries in 2008 exports of agricultural products to the US (Umoru, 2010). For a country with Nigeria’s resources and potential, this can be significantly improved.

Table 1: Summary of US Trade in goods with Nigeria ($million) 1999-2015 Year Exports Imports Balance

year exports imports balance
1999 627.9 4,385.1 -3,757.2
2000 721.9 10,537.6 -9,815.7
2001 955.1 8,774.9 -7,819.8
2002 1,057.7 5,945.3 -4,887.6
2003 1,016.9 10,393.6 -9,376.7
2004 1,554.3 16,248.5 -14,694.2
2005 1,619.8 24,239.4 -22,619.6
2006 2,233.5 27,863.1 -25,629.7
2007 2,77.9 32,770.2 -29,992.3
2008 4,102.4 38,068.0 -33,965.6
2009 3,687.1 19,128.2 -15,441.1
2010 4,060.5 30,515.9 -26,455.4
2011 4,911.6 33,854.2 -28,42.5
2012 5,028.6 19,014.2 -13,985.6
2013 6388.8 1,723.9 -5335.0
2014 5967.8 3839.2 2128.6
2015 34103 1915.8 1494.5


Table 1 reflects the United States trade and investment (trade in goods) with Nigeria for the past 14 years. They include government and non-government shipments of goods and exclude transactions with US military, diplomatic and consular installations abroad. Exports are valued at the free alongside ship (F.A.S) value of merchandise at the US port of export, based on the transaction price including inland freight, insurance and other charges incurred in placing the merchandise alongside the carrier at the US port of exportation. For imports, the value is the US customs and border protection appraised value of merchandise; generally, the price paid for merchandise for export to the United States. Import duties, freight, insurance, and other charges incurred in bringing merchandise to the United States are excluded.





From the outset, it must be noted that the creation of the international financial institutions known as the Bretton Woods institutions by the United States and other Western powers is another mechanism for maintaining dependency. As Okolo (1986) observes, this is a system deliberately designed by the major powers of the Second World War, particularly the United States to ensure the control of states economically after their independent, through the grant of loans, aid and other forms of assistance. Thus, Nigeria’s journey with foreign debt began in the 1960s when on attainment of independence, had approached Western financial institutions for loans for development assistance. It is also, important to state that from independence, successive administration (civilian or military) had contracted huge loans from private financial institutions and multilateral organizations (Wapmuk and Agbalajobi, 2012).

However, despite the approaches such as, debt conversion and debt securitization; debt cancellation, debt servicing and rescheduling, adopted by governments, Nigeria’s external debt rose astronomically with the total debt outstanding at the end of 1999 stood at $28.0 billion, with the Paris Club constituting the highest source with the share of 73.2 percent. With the advent of democracy, and the subsequent election and swearing-in of President

Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999, debt relief became one of the cardinal objectives of the new government. Thus, Nigeria expected to receive dividends in the form of debt relief from the international financial institutions. It is pertinent to state that at the time, Nigeria owed approximately $35 billion, largely to the group of countries known as the ‘Paris Club’. The Paris Club comprises countries from the world’s biggest economies, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

The realization of this goal was a major foreign policy objective in its relations with the US and other major powers. In August 2000, President Clinton announced a $100 million aid package to the country. This was aimed specifically at improving primary education and health care. The Bush administration was also involved in the sponsorship of many health-related

issues in the country. Interestingly, Barrack Obama considered debt relief for Nigeria even before he became president. As Illinois Senator then, strongly advocated for debt relief for Nigeria. In October 2005, through the relentless and persistent debt relief endeavours and diplomacy of Nigerian government, Nigeria secured the US Treasury Department’s assistance to persuade the Paris Club to write-off Nigeria’s foreign debt. The total relief package amounted to an $18 billion debt write-off, with Nigeria to pay off balance of approximately $12.4 billion to the creditors over the period of six months. Details of the transaction are articulated by Okonjo-Iweala and Osafo-Kwaaso (2007) thus: As part of a tough but ultimately successful debt negotiation process with the Paris Club, Nigeria paid its outstanding arrears of 6.4 billion, received a debt write-off of $16 billion on the remaining debt stock (under Naples terms), and purchased its outstanding 8 billion debt under a payback agreement at 25 percent discount for 6 billion. The entire debt relief package totaled $18 billion, or a 60 percent write-off in return for a $12.4 billion payment of arrears and buyback. The exercise involving the

buyback was unprecedented in the Paris Club for a low-income country and was the second largest debt relief operation in the club’s 50-years history. It brought an $18 billion debt reduction on Nigeria’s $30 billion Paris Club debt, an overall reduction of 60 percent and a 76 percent reduction of the non-arrears portion of the debt stock.

According to Wapmuk and Agbalajobi (2012), the debt relief was unique in many ways: first, it was the first of such exit for an African country and the second largest Paris Club debt deal ever after Iraq; second, it was granted without formal International Monetary Fund programme in place; third, it was structured to enable Nigeria to secure a complete and permanent exit from the Paris Club of creditors. In a related development, it is pertinent to state that the expression of friendship between Nigeria and the US was also affirmed in the signing of the first US-Nigeria Binational Commission, in April 2010. The aim was to establish a mechanism for sustained, bilateral, high-level dialogue to promote and increase diplomatic, economic and security co-operation between the two countries: According to Nnoma-Addison (2010), the Commission’s main objectives were the following:

_ to promote and co-ordinate the diplomatic, economic, military, commercial,

technical, social and cultural co-operation between the two countries

_ to address areas of mutual interest and/or concern and develop strategies for tackling

these issues with assistance and co-ordination from both governments

_ to assist in the implementation and follow-up of agreements and all other legal instruments already concluded between the governments.

_ create favourable conditions to carry out co-operation programmes and projects as may be decided by mutual consent, and help to resolve any difficulties that may arise in carrying out any such programmes and/or projects.

_ evaluate the development of co-operation between the two countries as well as initiatives from each government aiming to expand co-operation to new areas.

The Commission’s main focus was for the US government to work with Nigeria on a number of key domestic issues. These include good governance, electoral reform and preparations, transparency and anti-corruption, energy (electricity supply) reform and investment, as well as food and agricultural development. No doubt, the US investors and businesses are also likely to benefit from furthering developments in Nigeria under the civilian government. In addition, the Commission seeks to promote co-operation in efforts to resolve conflict in the Niger Delta, including issues of security and counter-terrorism. Underlying this is the US oil and energy security and the protection of US oil multinationals operating in the turbulent Niger Delta. Some of these issues are also apparent in Nigeria’s relationship with the U.S.






African Journal of Social Sciences Volume 3 Number 4 (2013) 200-213

Aja, A. (2003). The State and the Military: Perspective on Nigeria –USA military cooperation, Strategic analysis, XXVII (II) April-June.

Ameh J. and Ibrahim K. (2010) U.S give conditions of dropping Nigeria from terrorist list, The Punch, Lagos, February 2012.

Ate, B (1986) Nigerian and the United States: A theoretical framework of the analysis of twenty-five years of the relationship in: G. O. Olusanya and R.A Akindele (Eds) Nigerian External Relations: The first 25 years (PP233-248) Ibadan: University Press Limited.

Eminue. O. (2006). Military in Politics. Uyo, Soul mate press and Publishers.

Encyclopedia Britannica.

FRN (1999) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Lagos Federal Government Press.

Lyman. P. (1988) US-Nigeria Relations since 1960; and address delivered to the octagon membership Club, Owerri (Nigeria) October 6.

Omode. A. J. (2003) conceptualizing National Interest and National Security in Nigeria. A strategic perspective, Ilorin Journal of Business and Social Sciences 8 (1&2): 40.

Rosnau J. (1980) The Scientific Studies of Foreign policy, America.

Saliu, H. A and Aremu F. A (2006) continuity and change in US-Nigeria- relations; 1999-2005 Nigerian Journal of International Affairs, 32 (1): 133-153.

Wapmuk, S and Agbalajobi D. (2012) The Obasanjo Administration and the Campaign for External Debt Relief for Nigeria Journal of Social Sciences and Policy review, 4 30-44.







Section 19 of 1979 and 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria went further to set the for Promotion and protection of national interest,

  • Promotion of African integration and support of African unity
  • Promotion of international cooperation for consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination in all its manifestation;
  • Respect for international law and treaty. Obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication and
  • Promotion of a just world economic order.

The above policies as contained in the 1979 and 1999 constitutions (Anyaele, 2005:2) Yusuf, (2004), &

Akinboye, (2013), buttresses the point that “the protection of our national interest has remained the permanent

  • May 1999 inauguration of the fourth Republic
  • The attendance of a US official delegation to the inauguration of the fourth Republic.
  • President Olusegun Obasanjo’s inaugural speech highlighting appreciation to the enduring sacrifices of Nigeria’s for democracy, resolve to tackle rampant, corruption, a strong need for national renaissance, significant reforms, commitment to national integrity, restoration of confidence and the promise of a quality and competent cabinet. (World Media watch in association with BBC).
  • Commitment to the preservation of democracy in Africa.
  • USA lifting of sanctions/travel banon Nigeria’s military personnel’s
  • Lifting of ban on flights to Lagos Airport, electoral support, certification of Nigeria as drug free, military training, arms supply, US Nigeria defense cooperation agreement, aids support, debt rescheduling help, electoral support, birth control and family planning.
  • US Establishment of Africa crisis response initiative (ACRI)
  • US establishment of Africa center for strategic Studies (ACSS)
  • $ 20 million from President Clinton in fight against AIDS.

–        Us establishment of national endowment for democracy (NED)

  • USA donation of eleven vehicles to NDLEA for antinarcotics operations.
  • USA investment in the Nigerian oil sector through Exxon/Mobile, Chevron and Western geophysical. US multinationals investing in Nigeria through British American tobacco Company, and Citibanks.
  • US Nigeria signing of Trade and Investment framework agreement (TIFA) 2000.
  • Compliance of the Nigerian government with International law as in the leading of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.
  • The turning down of US Presidents proposal to station a US military base ‘African command at the gulf of guinea, precisely around the oil rich Niger Delta to combat terrorism and other threats to US African Interest (January, 2007).
  • President Obasanjo foreign trips – “shuttle diplomacy”.
  • Nigeria’s condemnation of coup in Pakistan and Africa.
  • President Clinton’s $ 100 million aid package to Nigeria.
  • US Treasury department intervened and prevailed on the Paris Club to write off Nigeria’s foreign debt. $18 billion debt relief in 2005.
  • The US institution of the AGOA.
  • Nigeria’s proactive role in preserving regional peace, economic growth, stability and security in the West African region through ECOMOG, AU, UN membership.

March 2003 Nigeria, south Africa and Senegal historical issuance of a condemnation letter to the USA for its invasion of Iraq and recommended the UN’s of un auspices for disarmament

The unveiling of (NEPAD) new partnership for Africa’s development in Genoa Italy by four leading head of states in Africa including President Obasanjo of Nigeria. The development and promotion of NEPAD to its fruition was overseen by Obasanjo.

  • Nigeria’s sustained membership of the United Nations (UN), organization of petroleum exporting countries (OPEC), African Union (AU) organization of African Trade Union Unity OATUU), Common Wealth, Intelsat and the non aligned movement.
  • Nigeria’s military commitment to peace in Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Western Sahara and the Balkans and Liberia.
  • Nigeria, financial commitment of $ 100,000 for the take off of the special court to try war criminals.
  • The signing of bilateral pact such as the Nigeria and US military pact or “mou” which was under the millennium action.
  • Nigeria’s condemnation of coup in Saotome and calls to return to democracy.
  • Nigeria’s condemnation of coup in Guinea Bisau and an African union team headed by Obsanjo September 2003.
  • Nigeria’s condemnation of coup in Pakistan .
  • The ceding of the Bakasi Peninsula to Cameroun
  • Nigeria condemnation of September II terrorist attack on USA and its support for USA military action against Alaqaeda and the Taliban



  • The first Democratic civilian to civilian transition of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
  • The inaugural address of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua highlighting commitments to democracy in form of a review of the elections that brought him to power and other reforms, vision 2020, the 7th point agenda, economic growth, infrastructural rebuilding, power development, laws enforcement and police reform, Niger Delta amnesty programme, health care reforms, anti-corruption, education, regional cohesion and good international relations.
  • President YarAdua’s historic diplomatic visit to US President G.W. Bush on.
  • Commitment to budget implementation and other diplomatic strides.
  • Nigeria fulfilling stipulated conditions by the USA for it to be removed from the terror watch list in 2010 following the attempt by a Nigerian Umar Farruk to bomb Northeast airline flight 253 over Detroit.
  • The peaceful democratic transition of power to Goodluck Jonathan at the of demise of President Yar’Adua.
  • President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural address
  • President Jonathan’s pledge to fight terror
  • Nigeria’s condemnation of coup in Mali
  • In 2013 Nigeria stand as America’s 35th largest goods trading partner with $18.2 billion in total goods trade goods export $6.5 billion, goods import from USA $11.7 billion, trade deficit $5.2 billion US FDI in Nigeria (stock) was 8.2 billion in 2012.




  • The historic and uncommon transition of power to an opposition party in Nigeria.
  • President Mohamadu Buhari’s inaugural address
  • President Mohamadu Buhari’s historic diplomatic meeting with US President Barak Obama.
  • The condemnation of coup in Mali.
  • USA pledge to support Nigeria against Boko Haram and the deployment of surveillance drove planes in search of the Chibok missing girls in 2014.
  • World bank approves $2.1 billion fund for the development of North east battered by Boko Haram,
  • $ 5 billion to be invested in the US investors in the Nigerians agricultural sector
  • 4 1.5 billion pledge by US the Nigerian health sector.
  • $ 5 billion pledge from US to the Nigerian power sector
  • S.A. donates 24 Armored vehicles to the Nigerian government for th fight against Boko Haram January, 2016
  • May 2016 USA donates 11 vehicles to Nigeria NDLEA
  • According to Wikipedia, Nigeria-United States relations, US foreign assistance priorities;
  • US expresses concern to the welfare of Nigerians by helping Nigeria combat malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, quality family planning, quality basic education, strengthening democratic institutions, rule of law, support directed to the arms forces staff college, support from ECOWAS and capacity enhancement, supports to EU to help Nigeria further in anti-corruption, organized crime, document fraud, drug traffickers, terrorist, support for economic reforms for agriculture and a diversified economy, encouragement to benefit from AGOA and private sector support.


           This work is premised on two hypotheses:

Hypotheses I: National interest fosters Nigeria –US relations

The following facts strongly support the first hypotheses;

Section 19 of 1979 and 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria highlights a constant feature of Nigeria’s National Interest in its foreign policy principle/objective.

Nigeria’s consistency in fulfilling US demands which predicates benefits that amounts to Nigeria’s national interest is a fundamental point of note. Examples are Nigeria’s policy statements on its commitment to improving democracy, rule of law, anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics, electoral reforms, transparency, human rights etc.

The ceding of the Bakassi Peninsular in respect to upholding  international principle is a good fact for hypotheses 1.

The formal condemnation of Alqaeeda and the Taliban in support of US fight against terrorism strongly supports hypotheses 1

Hypotheses II: National interest undermines Nigeria-US relations;

Nigeria differing in positions and declining US propositions when its national interest is not met, is a strong point for the support of hypotheses II as in the case of George. W. Bush’s proposal for a USA  military Base, ‘Africa command’ at the  gulf of Guinea in the Niger Delta.

The event of Nigeria,  SouthAfrica, and Senegal co-signing condemnation of USA invasion of Iraq as unacceptable and recommending the use of UN in disarmament of Iraq which culminated in suspension of military aid to Nigeria by USA in march 2003 did not serve Nigeria’s National interest rather an expression or display of commitment to  international principle,  undermined Nigeria-US relations.

HYPOTHESES I: and II has been verified and upheld.



Ashiru. O. (2013) Nigeria Foreign Policy in a changing World. This day Newspaper.

BBC World Media Watch 1999.

Boyd. J. B. (1979) African Boundary Conflict; An empirical Study. The African Studies Review, 22(3):50-98.

Congressional Research Service (2016) Nigeria: Current Issues and U.S Policy.

Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), Foreign policy objectives.

Greg. P. (2008) “Perspectives of Economic Policy in – Africa, International Journal of economics I (2) 131-156.

. Journal of law policy and globalization, ISSN 2224. 3259 Volume 16,2013.

White, F (2012). The impact of U.S government Africa growth and opportunity Act (AGOA) in the continent. Journal of Economics 8 (5), 89-106.




5.1     SUMMARY

In this study we assessed Nigeria’s foreign policy, its bilateral relations with the United States of America.

The objectives were therefore:

  1. Critical assessment of diplomatic relationship between Nigeria and the USA in the fourth republic.
  2. Empirical evaluation of whether Nigeria-US relations has impacts on Nigeria’s national Interest
  3. Examination of how democracy and good governance affects Nigeria-US relations
  4. Analysis of how internal and global terrorism affects Nigeria- US relations in the fourth republic.

In the study we employed the National interest theory by James Rosnau to guide our research. We have seen that Nigeria’s National Interest is paramount in its relations with United States and other countries. National interest justifies Nigeria’s relations with the USA.

In Nigeria’s quest or pursuits of its foreign policy objectives, it has suffered series of setbacks resulting in more strain relations with the USA. Nigerians falls short in fulfilling the prerequisites stipulated by the USA which predicates its National Interest. Nigeria is expected to improve in its quality of democracy, human rights, corruption, inequality, good governance, political competition, accountability, separation of powers, and freedom of speech etc. In other to sustain strong and mutually beneficial relations with the US. It is beneficial and rewarding to maintain good relations with the USA and as well initiate multilateral relations with other rising powers of the world to ease full dependence on Nigeria- US relations for National growth and interest.


  1. Nigeria should consistently maintain strong bilateral relations with the USA as it serves its national interest.
  2. Nigeria should strengthen its democratic institutions
  3. Nigeria should show ample will and commitment to fighting corruption and imparity.
  4. Nigeria should be swift in addressing concerns raised by benefactors as the USA.
  5. Nigeria should improve on its records of human rights.
  6. Nigeria should depoliticized the designation and managements of its foreign affairs by appointing career diplomats and practitioners  who fully understands the nuances of International relations and global politics.
  7. Nigeria should strive to broaden its foreign policy objectives.
  8. Nigeria should make itself its center of foreign policy and not Africa.
  9. Nigeria should diversify relations and explore multilateral relations with other countries.
  10. Nigeria should uphold its national interest as a premise for relations with other states.
  11. Nigeria should take cognizance of its history of relations and trends with the U.S.A in respect to its ambivalence.


From the study, it is clear that Nigeria’s bilateral relations with the United States spanned the entire years of the country’s existence as a sovereign nation. Nigeria – US relations is driven by national interest and actualizing Nigeria’s national interest is contingent on meeting U.S. demands which are in-exhaustive.  In Nigeria’s pursuit of its national interest, and the implementation of its foreign policy, Nigeria should forge a special relationship with rising economic powers of the world, thus, reducing its over dependence on the U.S.

Seeking new developmental partners on the global stage is strategic to fulfilling Nigeria’s national interest and managing existing Nigeria-US relations will require a review of bilateral policies, which will enhance Nigeria’s capacity to a status its relationship is based on economic technology democratic and security considerations.




African Journal of Social Sciences (2013) Volume 3 number 4. An assessment of diplomatic relations between the Nigeria and the United States of America in the fourth republic.

Aja, A. (2003). The State and the Military: Perspective on Nigeria –USA military cooperation, Strategic analysis, XXVII (II) April-June.

Ameh J. and Ibrahim K. (2010) U.S give conditions of dropping Nigeria from terrorist list, The Punch, Lagos, February 2012.

Ate, B (1986) Nigerian and the United States: A theoretical framework of the analysis of twenty-five years of the relationship in: G. O. Olusanya and R.A Akindele (Eds) Nigerian External Relations: The first 25 years (PP233-248) Ibadan: University Press Limited.

Eminue. O. (2006). Military in Politics. Uyo, Soul mate press and Publishers



Ademiran. T. (1983) Introduction to International relations, Ibadan. Macmillan.

Adeyemi F. O (2002) Dynamics of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy 1993-19983- Lagos. Franc Soba – Nigeria Limited.

African Journal of Social Sciences (2013) Volume 3 Number 4 An assessment of the diplomatic relation between Nigeria and United State of America in the fourth republic.

Agbegunrin. O. (2003) Nigerian Foreign Policy under Military Rule 1966-1999 Wespract. Praegel.

Akindele R.A. Ate B. E. (1986) Nigeria’s Foreign Policy 1986-200AD: Background to reflections on the views from Kuru. Africa Spectrum.

Akinyemi. B (12006) Foreign Politics of the power. Nigeria Institute of International Affairs. Nigeria.

Aluko. (1999) Nigerian foreign policy: Alternative perceptions and projections, London. Macmillan.

Ashiru. O. (2013) Nigeria Foreign policy in a changing World. This day Newspapers.

Ajai K, (2006) Nigerian foreign Policy and Image Crisis. Soc. Sci. 1-110-117.

Ate, B. (1986) Nigeria- American Relations, Converging interest and power relations TM Shaw and O. BBC. Worldwide Watch (1999), Nigeria’s past leader’s inaugural speeches.

Boyd. J. B. (1979) African boundary Conflict: An empirical Study, the African Studies review 22(3):50-98.

Congressional Research (2016) Nigeria. Current issues and US Policy

Eminue. O. 92006) military in politics, Uyo, Soul mate press and publishers. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria- Lagos, Federal Government Press.

Gambari- I. A (1975) Nigeria and the World. A growing Internal Stability, Wealth and External influence Journal of International Affairs 29 (2) 155-169.

Grey. P. (2008) Perspectives of economic policy in Africa, International Journal of Economics 1 (2) 131-16.

Isaac Obasi (1999) Research methodology in political science, Enugu, Academic Publishing company.

Journal of law (2013) Policy and Globalization ISSN 2224-32 59 Volume 16.

Lyman. P. 91988) US- Nigeria relations since 1960 An address delivered to the Octagon membership Owerri. Nigeria.

Miller. T. B. (1969) on writing about foreign policy in James Rosnau International Politics and Foreign Policy. The free Press New York.

Morganthau (1978) Politics among nations, New York.

Ogunbadejo. O. (1979) Nigeria’s Foreign Policy under Military Rule, 1966-79. International Journal Volume. 35-74.

Omode. A. J. (2003) Conceptualizing national interest a national security in Nigeria. A strategic perspective. Ilorin Journal of Business and Social Sciences 8 (1 and 2): 40.

Olasupo Olusoa (2015) Peak Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Volume 3 (5) pp 58-63.

Rosnau  J. (1980). The scientific Study of foreign policy. American.

Saliu H. A and Arenu F. A (2006) Continuity and change in US- Nigeria-relations: 1999-205 Nigerian Journal of International affairs, 32 (1):